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Activists march in Jacksonville MLK Parade

Demand 'Free Marissa now!' and 'Justice for Jordan Davis'
By staff |
January 27, 2014
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Participants in Jacksonville MLK Parade
Participants in Jacksonville MLK Parade (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Jacksonville, FL – 40 progressive activists marched together in the city's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Jan. 20. These activists commemorated King's legacy by demanding freedom for Marissa Alexander, the 33-year-old African American mother whose conviction for resisting domestic abuse was recently overturned, and justice for Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African American youth murdered in 2012 by a white vigilante in Jacksonville.

The MLK Parade is an important event that takes place in downtown Jacksonville every year. While the event commemorates the life and accomplishments of King, Jacksonville's activist community wanted to draw attention to modern day civil rights struggles taking place in the city.

“It honors his [King's] legacy and brings attention to the fact that we still have work to do,” said Terri Brown Neil, an activist with the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition and a participant in the parade. She continued, talking about the current campaigns to free Marissa Alexander and win justice for Jordan Davis, “These issues just keep coming back up. Every now and then, you have to ask yourself, what year is it now? These issues show how important it is to be involved and not just sit back and wait for someone else to do it.”

Activists from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, the New Jim Crow Movement and several other organizations marched together as a contingent in the parade. They held signs that featured little-known quotes from King, including, “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.” This quote in particular speaks to the continued struggle against anti-union laws, like the movement to stop right-to-work laws in Michigan last year.

Other important people in Jacksonville's growing people's movements attended, including Helen Jenkins, the mother of Marissa Alexander. Shirley Reed, the grandmother of Travis Swanson – an African American youth who was arrested at his high school without a warrant in 2009 – also marched in the parade, carrying a sign with her grandson's image.

As the parade progressed through the city, activists led chants including, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Angela Corey has gotta go,” referencing Jacksonville-based state attorney Angela Corey, who unjustly prosecuted Alexander, Swanson and countless other African-Americans in the city. Corey was also assigned by Florida Governor Rick Scott to prosecute George Zimmerman, the racist vigilante who murdered Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Activists widely blame Corey's lackluster prosecution of Zimmerman for that vigilante's acquittal in July 2013.

Governor Scott attended the Jacksonville parade and rode in the front of the procession, far from the activist contingent. Nevertheless, the sizable crowd that gathered to watch the parade nodded in agreement and chanted along with activists as they yelled, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Rick Scott has got to go!” and “Workers need a raise! Pay a living wage!”

“I'm very pleased with turnout,” said Neil. “This was the first MLK parade I participated in, and the first one in Jacksonville I've ever been to. It was inspiring to see that many people turn out. To see young people there was good, too. It's great to see a renewed presence of the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] in Jacksonville, and the folks marching with the Free Marissa campaign. I think we brought attention to issues we still need to work on.”